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How to Harvest and Store Garlic

Garlic drying on a rack

Harvest garlic in the summer when tops have begun to yellow and partially dry. Garlic will be ready for harvest 90 to 100 days after spring planting and about 8 months after autumn planting.

When to Harvest Garlic

  • Harvest garlic bulbs when two-thirds of the plant’s leaves turn yellow and start to fall over 90 to 100 days after spring planting and about 8 months after fall planting.
  • The cloves of a mature garlic bulb should fill out the skin of the bulb making it plump; to know for sure your crop is ready, pull up a few bulbs and check. The outer skin of a mature bulb—also called a “head”–should be firm; the papery skins between individual cloves should be intact.
  • Don’t harvest bulbs too soon if you plan to store them; small, undeveloped heads do not store well. Conversely, don’t leave bulbs in the ground too long or the cloves will begin to separate and burst from their skins; over-mature garlic heads will be vulnerable to decay and won’t be storable.
  • When garlic plant leaves begin to decline and bulb harvest is near stop watering so that the bulbs can begin the drying and curing process.
  • Not all garlic varieties mature at the same time. Commonly main harvest garlic in the Northern hemisphere is ready for harvest in late July.
  • Garlic can be harvested before bulbs form. In early spring when the plant is about a foot tall, you can cut garlic greens—or pull the whole plant—and use the greens like scallions. In early summer, you can cut the flower buds—called scapes; scapes can be used just like garlic bulbs. If you don’t remove the scapes in early summer, the bulbs will not swell up for the main harvest in mid- to late-summer. (Scapes can be refrigerated in plastic bags for 3 months.)
harvesting garlic
Lift garlic from loosened soil.

How to Harvest Garlic

  • Lift garlic bulbs and greens with a garden fork or spade. Loosen the soil before you lift the bulbs. Do not yank or tug the bulbs.
  • Be careful not to bruise the bulbs; bruised bulbs easily rot. A sliced or nicked bulb can still be used, but it can’t be stored.
  • Clean soil from the bulbs immediately after harvest and before curing.
Curing garlic
Hang the whole plant from a string or place the bulbs on a mesh rack in a well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight.

How to Cure Garlic

  • Cure bulbs (to be stored for several months) for two weeks in a shady place with plenty of air circulation.
  • Hang the whole plant from a string or place the bulbs on a mesh rack in a well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight.
  • The bulbs will be cured and ready to store when the skins or wrappers are dry and papery, the roots are dry, and the cloves can be cracked apart easily. Flavor increases as bulbs dry.
  • Once the bulbs have cured, trim the stems to 1½ to 2 inches (4-5 cm) long and remove the roots. You can further clean the bulbs by removing the outer skins, but be careful not to expose the cloves.
Garlic cloves
If you want to store the bulbs for several months, keep them in a cool, dry, dark place.

How to Store Garlic

  • If you plan to use the bulbs within a month or so, store garlic at room temperature 60° to 70°F (15-21°C) at low humidity. Store bulbs in a mesh bag or dish in a cupboard. Don’t hang garlic in the kitchen, where it will be exposed to bright light. At room temperature, garlic will keep for 1 to 2 months.
  • If you want to store the bulbs for several months, keep them in a cool (32°-40°F/0°-4°C), dry, dark place.
  • Hardneck garlic will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 months; softneck garlic will keep in the refrigerator for 6 to 9 months.
  • Discard garlic that develops mold during storage.
  • If you want to grow garlic again next season, save some of your largest, best-formed bulbs to plant again in the fall.

Types of Garlic

There are three types of garlic: Softneck, Hardneck (Stiffneck), and Great-headed (Elephant). Most varieties are ready for harvest about 90 days after planting.

  • Softneck varieties have necks that stay soft after harvest. Softneck varieties such as ‘Persian Star’ and ‘Mother of Pearl’ are best grown in warm-winter regions; they are less winter-hardy than other types. These varieties are commonly braided for storage. Softneck varieties are intensely flavored.
  • Hardneck varieties grow a single ring of cloves around a stem; they are not layered like softneck varieties. Hardnecks are extremely cold hardy but do not store as well or as long as other varieties. Hardneck varieties are mild flavored.
  • Great-headed is closely related to leeks. Their flavor is more like an onion than traditional garlic. Bulbs and cloves are large, with about 4 cloves to a bulb. Great-necks are not hardy and do not store as well as softneck and hardneck varieties.

More tips: How to Grow Garlic.

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4 Comments

    • Garlic scapes are the flower stalks of hardneck garlic (Allium sativum). Scapes can be harvested from early summer on. It’s best to harvest the scapes before they mature and set seed; that will allow the plant to put more energy into the maturation or enlargement of the bulb. Scapes can be used as a seasoning or sauteed and eaten alone. If you let the scapes mature (allow the flower to mature), you can then harvest the flower-produced bulbils in the fall; these can be planted in late winter or early spring next year to produce plants just like the mother plant.

    • Amy, in my experience you enjoy the best culinary results by harvesting scapes before they achieve a full curl– from when they’ve just sprouted up, to when they’ve grown into a simple arc. That’s when they are still relatively tender. Once scapes have grown full circle and begin curling they become woody. If you’re still intent on using them at this stage, then you have to trim off hard parts more aggressively, and dice the scapes into smaller pieces and cook them longer. If you’re very late to trimming your scapes, you can still salvage their potential by dicing and drying, then grinding them into a powder.

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